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83, November/December 2013

28 February 2014

Newsletter University Council Edition No. 83 (meeting November 28 / December 12)

A summary of the UCouncil meeting of 28 November and 12 December 2013

Index English
- UCouncil makes out a case for Quality Control at the RUG
- Centralisation: also at Admissions RUG
- Performance agreements
- Educational Quality Reports
- Tablets4all
- Study Advisors
- Progress reports Health & Safety Services
- Reorganization FEF
- Budget of institution
- Any Other Business

UCouncil makes out a case for quality control at the RUG
This spring the RUG will have to show the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation that in the area of educational quality it is sufficiently ‘in control’. A well-functioning quality control  system is an important pillar in this context. The Board, for this purpose, uses a system with the terms  Plan, Do, Check, Act; a quality control cycle. This is put into effect via meetings with the management of Faculties and Facilities.
The UCouncil has devoted two meetings to this methodology. The reason for this was that the underlying plan of the Board was thought to be of insufficient quality. Also, the role of participation in decision-making with respect to quality control was still not adequate, according to the UCouncil. The fractions have introduced amendments, as a result of which issues were expressed in more detail. This relates, for instance, to dealing with policy memoranda.  The Board’s memoranda should be structured more concretely and more systematically. Thus it will be easier to track how policy is  implemented and put into effect in practice. This way the UCouncil can keep a finger on the pulse better and monitor quality control.

Centralisation; also at Admissions RUG
The trend is obvious: various processes at the RUG are being centralised. Examples are the University Library and Financial Economic Function of the RUG.  Also, the admission of foreign students, organised under the header Admissions, is to be organised more centrally. This requires a re-organisation. The UCouncil was notified of this in December, with the right to prior consultation. After a discussion with the Board, the UCouncil gave the green light for further planning of the re-organisation. The need for attention for the position of the faculty employees involved was stressed, and also the underlying ICT processes that are an important pre-condition for a successful centralisation. Before long, the re-organisation plan will be submitted to the UCouncil.   In principle, the new organisation will start in October 2014.

Performance agreements
In October, progress of the performance agreements was discussed in the committee meetings. On request, the document was placed on the agenda of the UCouncil again this month: this gives the fractions more opportunities to respond in more detail.  Both students and employees asked for clarification about the calculation of contact hours and the allocated value. Has an intensive seminar the same value as a lecture to  600 students? Is it possible to count e - mail traffic as contact hours? The Board reported that the definitions in relation to the performance agreements are strictly laid down. After the measurement in 2015, the definitions can be reformulated if necessary .

Education Quality Reports
The educational reports of this period are on the agenda of the UCouncil again. The reports of various Faculties were not entirely uniform in structure. This made reading, reviewing and asking questions a lot harder for the UCouncil. The promise by the Executive Board that this would be improved was well received by the fractions.
On the whole, the fractions did not take issue with the reports in terms of substance.  However, various fractions expressed a wish to have the Student-staff ratio of each faculty  recorded in the reports next time. The student -staff ratio indicates specific to each department how many FTE staff ( academic and non-academic ) there are per student. In particular, the student fractions attach great importance to this information. The Board remarked that a higher student-staff ratio will not necessarily result in poorer educational quality.
Also, the staff fraction indicated to want to have a trend report showing a clear trend and showing the bigger picture clearer. Here the point of view  and an explanation by the Board is highly desirable. The students  also indicated to want a more defined concept of contact  hours in the Exam Regulations. The interpretation of this concept was in fact  seen as a flaw by both the UCO (education advisory committee ) and the student fractions of the council.

Tablets4all
In the UCouncil the possibility of providing a tablet for employees who work at the RUG at least 0.3 FTE or more was discussed. The scheme provides for a compensation of € 200 , - for employees who purchase a tablet under this scheme. The tablet must meet some basic requirements so that the tablet can also be used for work purposes. Because the user  purchases the tablet himself he is allowed to use it for private purposes.  There are tablets in various price ranges. For just under € 200,- you have a good tablet , but for more than € 700,-  there are also fully equipped Apple iPads for sale . It is up to the user to decide what he needs.
The staff fraction had some critical questions about this arrangement. The staff fraction wondered why staff must pay for the tablet. `Is this also going to happen for all the inventory we need? '' -  a question from the staff fraction making a very clear point.  The student fractions support the digitization subsidy. However, the SOG faction advised  further promotion of  the sustainability aspects, so that the amount of printing will be reduced once tablets are used.  At the moment it remains to be seen whether many employees will make use of  this arrangement and whether its use will have the effect as desired by the Board.

Study advisors
In  December a memorandum was discussed in the UCouncil meeting on the issue of accessibility of study advisors. In certain Faculties there is dissatisfaction regarding the quality  and accessibility of the study advisors, while  especially in times of constantly changing regulations good information is of great importance. Solutions such as the exchange of ‘best practices’ among Faculties, making lists of FAQ’s, setting up student desks where students can be pointed into the right direction fast and raising the issue with various Faculty Councils came up during the discussion of the memorandum. A letter and the memorandum  will be sent to all Faculties to ensure that a study coach is available for each student.  

Progress reports Health & Safety Facilities
Also, this year the progress reports of the Health & Safety Services (AMD) were submitted to the University Council, though in a different form compared to previous years. This year a choice was made to not report per Faculty, but per co-ordinating organisation or building on main themes, so that a clear description was given about the situation RUG-wide. The Health & Safety system at the RUG functions adequately: each Faculty and Service Department has a Health & Safety co-ordinator who takes care of an up-to-date risk assessment and risk evaluation and for the execution of the plans of approach based on these.
In general, absenteeism with an average of 3% is low at the RUG, there are enough BHVpersons per Faculty and working conditions of staff are well monitored. A new subject in the progress reports is “New Working”, to be evaluated at the end of 2013. In addition, increasingly work on sustainability in the RUG is carried out, for instance, LED lighting, reclaiming energy, and waste-reducing measures. However, work pressure must be monitored closely. 

Reorganization FEF
The University Council,  December 12, issued a positive advice on the revised draft reorganization plan financial and economic function ( FEF ). Uncertainty among staff about a perceived threat of dismissal was observed. Consequently,  the text was modified into: "That might in some cases lead to a surplus in the number of employees involved,  which does not lead to compulsory redundancies at the University." The Executive Board reported that two showstoppers had been established along the way, both in the field of automation : 1) procurement and 2) a well-tuned data warehouse. Both must operate without any flaws for 2 months.
The organizational change is a university-wide change, it involves all employees working within the financial and economic function, with a permanent contract, and those on a temporary contract with the option of a permanent contract in the future. Of other staff, including staff with a temporary appointment, call workers, temporary workers, trainees and apprentices, the contracts will be respected and they will be accommodated in the re-organization for the duration of their contract.  The staffing plan is expected to be finalised in February 2015.

Budget institution approved
Also this year the university budget was back again on the agenda this month. The budget consisting of a large number of pages with figures and explanations was checked critically by ‘financial specialists’ of the various Faculties in the past month in a number of meetings with the RUG, colleagues and the own fraction.  This resulted in a number of questions for the Executive Board.  The most important and most frequently asked questions are summarized below .
Firstly, several fractions had questions about the impact of  the loss of funds for ‘Sustainable Humanities’ and whether or not the Board and the Faculties dealt with  this issue adequately. The Executive Board indicated that Faculties themselves should come up with a plan here. Because the financial  prospects of the faculty of Arts  are still not that good, the Faculty Board is asked to submit a scenario analysis also. Attracting external funding is for example a solution for the faculties to generate  more income.
The Faculty of Law has built up a huge reserve over the years.  Questions were raised about this in the UCouncil. The Executive Board is discussing this with the Faculty. Furthermore, the staff group posed the question if it is possible that the RUG will start borrowing money in the future. This in light of the fact that the RUG has never done this before but does, however, show a negative outcome on the liquidity planning.  The Board indicated that borrowing is not bad by definition but expects not to  have to do this either. At most, a bridging credit may be required to invest in buildings in one go. But this point will definitely come back on the agenda of the university council. Central resources of the library were also discussed , but the Executive Board can be brief about this , because the Board indicated  that the university library as a service is in charge of this.  The student fraction raised a question about a fairly big surplus of operating costs.  The Executive Board indicates that it budgets carefully , this tradition will be broken slightly so as  to budget more realistically. The surpluses that are now budgeted  will be deployed later, but there are no concrete plans as yet . After all questions were answered appropriately the Ucouncil  unanimously agreed the budget, amidst applause.

Any Other Business
Members of the student faction  “ Lijst Calimero”wondered who makes the decision whether a year group or ‘de jaarklassen’ will be introduced. The Executive Board indicated its close involvement with regards to the final decision.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

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Disclaimer: The text above is an impression of topics discussed in the UR and should not be regarded as official statements with regard to decisions taken in the UR.

Last modified:19 February 2016 2.59 p.m.
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